The Association of Low Social Support with Breast Milk Expression in Low-Income Mother-Preterm Infant Dyads

J Hum Lact. 2015 Aug;31(3):490-7. doi: 10.1177/0890334415586199. Epub 2015 May 14.


Background: Premature infants benefit from receiving expressed breast milk (BM), but expressing breast milk is difficult for new mothers. Little is known about mothers' social support and BM expression during the premature infant's hospital stay.

Objective: We examined whether low maternal social support was associated with breast milk expression initiation and low breast milk expression among low-income mothers of premature infants.

Methods: Maternal intake interview data and daily infant data on proportion of nutrition from BM during hospitalization were analyzed from a larger randomized trial testing a developmental intervention on 181 mother-premature infant dyads with at least 2 of 10 social-environmental risks. Multivariable modified Poisson regression was used to examine the relationship between social support (Personal Resources Questionnaire 2000; dichotomized as low for lowest quartile), initiation (any breast milk expressed vs none), and low breast milk expression (if BM was < 30% of infant total milk/formula intake during hospitalization).

Results: Breast milk expression was initiated by 70.2% of mothers, and 32.3% of those mothers had low breast milk expression. In adjusted multivariable analyses, social support did not relate to the initiation of breast milk expression but was significantly associated with low breast milk expression among mothers who initiated (adjusted relative risk = 1.57; 95% confidence interval, 1.00-2.47).

Conclusion: Low social support was not associated with initiation but was associated with low breast milk expression during hospitalization. Interventions to enhance social support for mothers of premature infants, especially those reporting low social support from family and friends, may increase in-hospital expression and long-term breastfeeding.

Keywords: breast milk expression; breastfeeding; low-income mothers; preterm infants; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Milk Expression / economics
  • Breast Milk Expression / psychology*
  • Breast Milk Expression / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Illinois
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Poverty*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support*